Part 1: What Makes Stepmothering So TRICKY!
Stepmothers are faced with challenges that biological parents aren’t. Of course, there are similarities however being a stepmother takes parenting to an entirely new level.
Here are 3 main reasons why parenting as a stepmother is so TRICKY!
1. You don’t have the history that you have with biological children. You have come into this child’s life after they have been parented by other adults for a few or many years. They have developed relationships to their parents and developed a sense of who they are in the world. As a result it is common for stepchildren to be very resistant to another adult coming into their lives.
2. Children in stepfamilies often experience loyalties binds to their biological parents (i.e. mother). They don’t want to get to know you in case this upsets their mother. Also, they can feel guilty for liking you. So, rather then move towards forming a relationship they withdraw and create situations where there is tension.
3. Stepfamilies are built on grief and a myriad of other emotions states. Children often enter into stepfamily living with a lot of hurt, confusion, sadness, shame and fear. Children subjected to the breakdown of the first family might have witnessed and experienced intense conflict in their lives before the relationship ended. Children bring this history and the emotional impact this had on them to the new family.
Children are deeply intricate, sensitive and intuitive. They are innately seeking to feel safe, secure and respected by their environment and the people in their lives. Even the child who spat on you last night as you handed him his dinner plate. Yes, it’s hard to believe but he too is desperate to feel cared for, and nurtured. Our role as stepparents and as the adult is to understand the emotional reality of the children in our lives.
There are three points to consider when giving your stepchild the message that you care, understand and respect them:
1. Be warm and empathetic.
2. Slow down the getting to know you process.
3. Provide moderately firm parenting.
Children are not to blame. They have a history that involved conflict, possibly trauma and so much grief and loss. While they are not to blame, of course they are responsible for their actions. We guide, support and encourage children to take responsibility by holding a deep understanding and respect for their emotional realities, wellbeing and development. The 3 points above are the keys to demonstrating and giving your stepchild your understanding. It is only when you demonstrate your care and understanding that a child has the chance to heal.
Stayed tuned for Part 2: When the BM (Biological Mother) is a nightmare: Parenting with the other woman.
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